After a morning of blissful sailing on Lake Pontchartrain, Capt. Rick Delaune takes his 42-foot sailboat, the Windward Passage, into Bayou Castine. The boat glides through the bayou, in Old Mandeville, past multiple marinas and cypress forests as alligators skim the waters.

Delaune grew up in River Ridge and graduated from Brother Martin, but sailing was in his blood from an early age. Instead of a car at graduation, he received a Windmill Class sailboat that he raced and sailed for several years.

“While other kids were playing army, I would be trying different sail combinations on model boats that I built,” he said, adding his family sailed Lake Pontchartrain year-round in all kinds of weather. “My family stayed on our Easterly 30 sailboat on Bayou Castine for Hurricane Camille.”

One of his earliest memories was picking up his father from work on Canal Street at a marine supply store. They would eat at the Frostop across the street.

“They served a Boat-o-Burger, which was a burger and fries served in a blue plastic boat,” he explained. “I would save those plastic boats and build sails and masts for them. I was hooked at a young age.”

Every summer throughout high school and college, he worked with his father rigging steering systems on flat boats, mounting outboard motors and ordering parts for the engines. For years, Delaune, his family and the sailing community would sail from the south shore to Mandeville.

“It would be 150 boats crossing the lake all at one time,” for popular sail boat races on Lake Pontchartrain. “We would spend the night, party and go back home the next day,” he said.

After college, he worked with Bill Seemann as vice president of Seemann Fiberglass. He worked with the company for 30 years and admits working for a sailor had its fringe benefits.

“I was lucky enough to sail with a number of the great sailors on Lake Pontchartrain,” Delaune said adding he sailed as much as 3,000 miles a year working on crews of custom racing sailboats and breaking record times during the Gulfport, Mississippi, to Pensacola, Florida, races.

“There were lots of wild rides,” he said, recalling some of the more adventurous sails. “We finished third in the Lightship Race with hard winds and 15-foot waves.”

In 2009, Delaune combined his decades of experience in sailing and boat building to start his own business, Delaune Yacht Brokerage. He also provides sailing charters and sailing lessons, which change some customers’ lives.

“One of my clients, a couple, turned in their motorcycles and bought a sailboat,” said Delaune. “They have sailed to Pensacola twice and love it.”

A woman bought sailing lessons in a quest to help her husband become a better competitor in sailboat racing, but she had a special request.

“It was a Christmas present, and I knocked on the door with a red bow on my head,” said Delaune, grinning.

Rather than whisking away in a car with tin cans tied to the bumper, one bride and groom had a different idea.

“A couple asked me to pick them up after their wedding reception at the Mandeville Yacht Club for a sunset cruise with champagne and chocolates,” Delaune said, smiling.

It seems the lake’s calming waters, soothing breezes and stunning sunsets offer the perfect setting for many romantic cruises. The Windward Passage also was the setting of a wedding proposal.

“The guy had it all planned out, he waited until the sun got low and proposed to her on the bow,” Delaune said. “He asked me to take pictures, and I took one with the sun right between them.”

After sailing for 48 years, Delaune looks forward to introducing the beauty of sailing to many more. He recently received his 100-ton master captain’s license that allows him to operate larger boats with more passengers.

He looked out over the helm at the bright green cypress trees along Bayou Castine, and said, “I love seeing the big smiles when a customer takes the helm. That’s why I do what I do.”

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